Updated: Jun 24
More than ever, there is a shift to implement diversity initiatives into workplace environments. Different perspectives are increasingly being sought out in the corporate environment. While these efforts are making a difference, the gap between leadership opportunities and pay for women is still an immense problem. How do we ensure that the efforts and perspectives of all employees are appropriately recognized for the merits they bring into the workplace?
This question is where a conversation about advocacy needs to begin. Advocacy goes beyond merely “recognizing” an idea, and helps push a narrative to be heard through action. After interviewing two UBWA alumnae, Sarah Prill and Joy Schwartz, I was able to hear their perspectives on what advocacy should look like in a professional world and what we can do as future leaders to make it happen.
There are two main components to advocacy that help to foster inclusive environments: self-advocacy and sponsorship. Self-Advocacy is an essential piece to the greater conversation about recognition. Joy Schwartz, speaking from her 16 years of experience in talent management, explained how specifically in a new role at an organization it could feel like “treading water.” Wanting to emphasize your expertise and value to an organization should start with two pathways of action: networking and collaborative behaviors. Joy explained that throughout her career, she regularly schedules one-on-one conversations with co-workers, even outside her function, to share a conversation about each other’s work and skills. Sharing your accomplishments with senior leaders allows you to control their narrative about your capabilities, which is important when looking to start conversations about moving up in responsibility at a company.
The second piece of self-advocacy can sometimes be much more complicated: shifting mindsets. Joy explained that when she transitions roles, she looks to take on a new, learning mindset: “a set of collaborative behaviors, and an approach of insightful inquiry to help build up some organizational currency. After that, I try to achieve some “quick wins,” or small projects or initiatives leveraging my past experience to demonstrate credibility.” Demonstrating reliability not only through words but with actions is incredibly powerful when looking to be promoted. When you have a background that showcases your capabilities, it will only make the promotional process easier.
The second component of advocacy in the workplace is sponsorship, which, as Joy describes, is “finding one or more individuals who can speak to your skills, accomplishments, and behaviors that align with the implicit or explicit success measures of your organization or function.” Sponsorship can sometimes be more intimidating, but after laying the initial credibility groundwork of experience and networking as previously mentioned, it should be easier to find advocates. Joy shared her experience by saying, “When I already laid the groundwork with my key stakeholders, it often only took a couple of phone calls or emails to land my next opportunity. You must also seek others to advocate for you, as sponsors, after initially demonstrating the mindsets and behaviors that lead to strong performance in your organization and then exceeding expectations with your work.” Finding someone to speak to your work can limit confirmation bias about role qualifications and boost confidence to continue pursuing new leadership roles.
Finally, it is significant to mention a company’s culture and mindset when it comes to growth. Sarah Prill, a UBWA alumna and current Business Systems Analyst at Epsilon, explained that it is vital to pursue a workplace that wants you to learn and internally develop talent. Building employee equity should be relevant to the company you work with, particularly if you are looking to move into more leadership roles in the future. Joy also explained that, “In cases when opportunities aren’t offered after the investment is made and high performing women are being passed over for opportunities, I usually coach clients and colleagues that it may be time to reevaluate the fit of the organization and consider transitioning elsewhere.” If your skills as a professional are being undermined even with self-advocacy steps being taken, it might be time to reevaluate if a company is a good fit.
I hope this information proves valuable in fostering conversations about advocacy and, ultimately, translates into your workplace experiences. Understanding how essential self-advocacy and sponsorship are to a promotional process will help build your strategic decision making skills in the workplace. I want to thank you for reading this post as well as Joy Schwartz and Sarah Prill for their insight in writing this post. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about advocacy, feel free to email me at email@example.com.